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Miter Saw vs Circular Saw – Which is Best for you and Why?

Miter Vs Circular

If you own a workshop or you are planning to build a cute end table, you may not be able to do much without an effective cutting tool since you will need to cut different materials every day. Today there are so many cutting tools on the market which makes it hard for starters to choose the best. Some of the most common cutting tools are a miter saw and a circular saw.

If you have never used any of the two, you may end up being confused on which one you should choose because they almost look the same. However, you need to know that they don’t work the same. In this article, we shall reveal their differences and it is our hope that at the end, it will be easier for you to determine which one you should consider.

Both are better than each other in various aspects but they are different machines.

Circular saw

A circular saw is among the most versatile power saws that most people prefer in their workshops or garage.  They have a circular blade that rotates at a very high speed when cutting plywood, plastic, tiles, masonry, plywood or metal. Circular saws are available in both cordless and corded models.

A circular saw is great for Rip cutting when you have to divide the long part of the wood with the grain. It comes in various sizes which basically depends on blade size but the default size is 7 1/4 inches.

What makes them unique is the fact that they are suitable for all types of cuts. They are mostly used when you want to do rip-cuts. You can also use them to cut different materials in any shape. Using a circular saw can be a bit risky since it is a handheld device. Therefore, it is advisable to look for safety gloves when using these tools.

A hand-held circular saw

Key features

  • It is a handheld device
  • Requires a bit of practice especially if you have never used them before
  • Highly portable
  • Very versatile since you can use it to cut different materials according to your requirements
  • Affordable

Miter saw

Miter means a cut that is done at any other angle but not 90 degrees. A miter saw is specially designed to do accurate crosscuts and it is the best when you want to cut at specific angles. Miter saws look almost the same as circular saws since both of them use a circular blade that rotates at a high speed when cutting. However, they are more accurate and are the best when you want to do crosscuts.

You will also be required to have a workbench or a table when using a miter saw. In terms of safety, miter saws are safer as compared to circular blades because they are fixed in one position. This means that your hands are far from the blades which minimizes the chances of accidents. However, you should observe the necessary measures since they are not 100% safe.

Sometimes miter saw is also called a chop saw when they are used to cut metals. It’s nothing much different just the miter saw which is made of different materials to cut the metal called a chop saw. It comes in various sizes from the smallest size of 7 inches through 10 inches to a bigger up to 12 inches.

A motorized miter saw

Types of Miter Saws:

  • Original miter box and saw – The first miter saws usually consisted of a wooden or plastic three-sided box with 90° and 45° slits to guide a hand or backsaw to make miter cuts in a piece of work.
  • Power/Standard miter saw – Used making straight cross-cuts at a wide range of angles
  • Compound-miter saw – Compound ones are able to rotate the blade and head at a variety of angles, also known as a single compound miter saw.
  • Dual compound-miter saw – Dual rotate the head on both the left and right-hand sides when angled.
  • Sliding compound-miter saw – Sliding works to move the head back and forth on a sliding rail. They are used for the locking of the rails to use for straight, pull-down cuts (like chop saws).
  • Laser/LED miter-saws – Some miter saws come with Laser Guide hence called.  Some come withLED feature to better illuminate the work area.

Key Features

  • It is a bit heavy and more powerful
  • It is positioned in one place when cutting
  • Suitable in creating angled cuts and crosscuts
  • Easier to use

Which one is more expensive?

When it comes to price, miter saws are more expensive than circular saws. The reason why they are expensive is that they are very accurate, more powerful, and will provide the best results. If you really want to get value for your money, a miter saw will be the best option.

Circular saws range from $40 to $100 with the high prices being the quality. While Miter saws cost $200 to $600 on Amazon or various stores.

Which one is easier to operate?

In terms of usage, miter saws are a step ahead. They may be heavier than circular saws but they are very easy to use. You will find that they are fixed on a specific position which means that it is easier to make angled cuts or straight cuts when using them.

Do I have to take skills to operate either?

The good thing about these tools is that you do not need any special skills or education to use them. You only need to practice first before starting serious work with any of the tools. Most of them come with a user manual which you should go through before you start working. It is also good to check YouTube videos if you are still not sure how they work.

Which one is the best to start with if I can only afford one right now?

If you are a newbie and on a tight budget, you should definitely go for a circular saw. You can try to build any new project and if you like it you can keep it or upgrade to buy a miter saw which will cost $200 more.

They are also more versatile since you can use them to do different things that you can’t do with a miter saw. You should also note that they are highly portable and they don’t require a lot of space which makes them suitable for those with limited space. However, they require a lot of practice because they are not easy to use. In terms of accuracy, a miter saw will be the best but if your main concern is the price, then you won’t go wrong with a circular saw.


About the Author David Vieria

David has been a woodworker for most of his life — in his dad’s cabinet shop. After using the tools himself, he decided to share it his woodworking and power tools knowledge with DIYers. Read more about him

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